• Dale Roberts

Is a Eurovision non-qualification a blessing in disguise?



In 2010 a tearful Anna Bergendahl was led from the green room by Sweden's Head of Delegation Christer Bjorkman.


She had just missed making the Grand Final, which saw the four-time winning nation non-qualify for the first time in their history.



But just two years later they would be holding the crystal microphone aloft, and within a decade would become the dominant force at the Contest not seen since Ireland in the 1990s.


Here in lies a great lesson for Australia after today, not qualifying isn't always the disaster it is made out to be.


Here we look at just five examples of countries who turned around their non-qualifications:


Sweden



Anna Bergendah's song 'This is My Life' finished 11th in her semi-final missing the Grand Final which had followed a string of poor results for the Swedes (18th, 18th and 21st the previous three years).


The next year Christer Bjorkman introduced international juries to their national selection show Melodifestivalen with immediate success.


In 2011 Eric Saade would finish 3rd with 'Popular', one of four podium finishes for Sweden in the next five years.


Within those podiums were two victories, Loreen's 'Euphoria' in 2012 and Måns Zelmerlow with 'Heroes' in 2015.


Sweden finished the decade with eight Top 10 finishes and seven Top 5 places. A remarkable turn around for which Anna Bergendahl's non-qualification was the catalyst.


Russia



Before the 2018 Contest only five nations had 100% qualification records including Russia.


With a victory in 2008 and three podium finishes in the previous five years, Russia was a powerhouse when it came to Eurovision.

Julia Samoylova competed in Lisbon with the song 'I Won't Break' finishing 15th in the semi-final, which unfortunately did break Russia's unblemished record.


However, the nation turned it around immediately. Sergey Lazarev returned to the Contest in 2019 (after competing in 2016) to finish in 3rd place and take Russia back to the results they were used to.


This year Manizha has kept that qualifying record strong, getting through with her song 'Russian Woman' this morning.


Austria



Austria had sat out the Eurovision Song Contest from 2008 to 2010 before returning in 2011 to finish 18th, but the next two years proved it wasn't a very successful return.


Two non-qualifiers in a row including a last place in the semi-final for Trackshittaz and 'Woki mit deim Popo' saw the nation struggling.


The next year saw one of the most momentous victories in modern Eurovision with Conchita Wurst storming to a famous win.


She had actually lost in the national selection to Trackshittaz in 2012, which shows that her own "non-qualification" was also a blessing in disguise that allowed her to... 'Rise Like a Phoenix'!


Azerbaijan



When Azerbaijan appeared on the Eurovision scene in 2008 they made an immediate impact.


Their first six contests saw them claim a victory in 2011, make the Top 10 on every occasion and only miss the Top 5 once.


Average results followed but they still made the Grand Final every time until.... 2018.


Aisel's 'X My Heart' finished 11th in that year's semi-final of death to send Azerbaijan tumbling out of the Eurovision final for the very first time.


But they bounced back immediately. The very next year Chingiz took the song 'Truth' to Tel Aviv where he finished 8th and gave Azerbaijan their first Top 10 result since 2013.


Efendi's qualification this year with 'Mata Hari' also shows the nation is back on track.


Czech Republic



Czech Republic were once the basket cases of Eurovision. In their first three years from 2008 to 2010 they finished last, last and second last which saw them leave the Contest for several years.


A return in 2015 saw them non-qualify in 13th with 'Love Never Dies' before making their first Grand Final with 'I Stand' in 2016 finishing 25th (with 0 televote points).


In 2017 they non-qualified again with 'My Turn' and they looked destined never to reach Eurovision greatness.


They then completely changed their approach.


They focused on getting independent young artists for their national final. They held it online only with the inclusion of international juries.


The approach saw immediate success with Mikolas Josef finishing 6th place in Lisbon (he had already turned down the 2017 song 'My Turn') and Lake Malawi finishing 11th in 2019 with 'Friend of a Friend'.


This fresh approach is another great example of rising from the ashes of a non-qualification.



So as Australian fans deal with something every modern Eurovision country has encountered (except Ukraine and those pesky Big 5 nations), we can take solace in the fact it might kick start an even stronger approach in the future.